Lizzy Hazeltine blogs regularly about her adventures as a first-time venture capitalist, and a woman in the male-dominated field.
How do you know if you’re talking too much?
Laugh if you like, but it’s a question that I ask myself often enough. It’s not because I’m neurotic, but because I am essentially in the business of talking and more importantly, listening, for a living. And if you’re in entrepreneurship, you probably are, too.
Whether that’s at ExitEvent’s socials, over coffee at the Green Bean, at AngelSummit, a boot camp pitch day or anywhere else I find myself, I’ve discovered a concrete benchmark that helps keep the airtime more equal.
I affectionately call it The Beer Rule. The Beer Rule states that you should check the relative levels of stuff in peoples’ glasses periodically to see who’s lower. More balanced turn-taking moves the conversation along in a productive direction while keeping all the participants engaged.
The rule is rooted in science, yes, science. While you can talk with your mouth full of food (c’mon, we’ve all done it), you can’t talk and drink at the same time without drooling on yourself. So, when your victim/conversation partner, finishes her sparkling water before you dent yours, odds are good that you did more of the talking. If you did substantially more of the talking, you likely missed an opportunity to hear something potentially important or make a more cooperative impression.
Pro tip: calling yourself out on Bogarting the conversation shows you’re aware of the flub, and that can go a long way toward a dynamic that’s inclusive. “Gosh, I’ve been blabbing about B2B SaaS—that really excites me. George, what’s the latest in (that thing you get really nerdy about)?”
Even more pro tip: whoever’s glass is lowest might need to be pulled into the conversation through questions. If you’re driving the topics, and your glass is mostly full, you have the power to engage them.
Doing much more of the talking sends the implicit message that what you’re saying is more important than anyone else’s contributions, that you perceive yourself as more important, even. Coming off as interesting works less consistently than striving for sincere interest in what’s beyond yourself. You can always back up humility, but walking back a puffed-up first impression is tough.
Use whatever beverage suits your taste and the situation, but if you let it, the Beer Rule might be your new best protection against unbalanced conversations.